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Greg James on why "scared, lily-livered" TV bosses need to be bolder with their commissioning decisions

The host of Sounds Like Friday Night tells it's "terrible" that many shows aren't given a chance to grow

Greg James and Dotty on Sounds Like Friday Night
Published: Tuesday, 24th October 2017 at 12:01 am

Greg James says his new BBC entertainment programme Sounds Like Friday Night is "quite rare" because most TV commissioners aren't being daring enough in their decision-making.


"It’s so exciting that we’ve managed to get to do this," James tells, of fronting the BBC1 primetime music show alongside Radio 1Xtra DJ, Dotty. "It's quite rare in this era, where people aren’t really being bold with their commissioning choices, and you tend to have a lot of similar shows. Or you see the same faces over and over again, doing the same types of shows. Or they just go 'oh, put a quiz show on, because you can film 300 of them in a month, and then you’re done.'

"So this is amazing because it’s a live show. It’s music, and it’s risky, and it’s bold. I’m so pleased that the BBC have decided to do one, and that they’ve got us to do it."

Does he think launching a TV show is harder these days, owing to the speed at which programmes can be instantly deemed a failure and dropped after a single series or a few episodes? "I think that’s because of scared, lily-livered commissioners that just go, '100 people are giving us shit on Twitter. Cancel it!' And it’s really terrible that that happens.

"It happens to comedy a lot. If The Office had just been binned on its first review – which was terrible – then look at what would have not been in the world for the next 20 years. Monty Python got bad reviews... Everything gets bad reviews to start off with! People don’t like change, ever. People hate everything."

Not to say that he's worried about negative reviews...

Greg James on Sounds Like Friday Night

"I think it’d be stupid to be sitting inside and shivering and panicking about it, because what an opportunity. And at the end of it all, if it’s amazing, brilliant; if it’s not, we’ll do something else.

"It’s not a difficult concept, this show," continues James. "It’s not a tricky thing. It’s not trying to get your head around something mad. It’s pretty straightforward. It’s not supposed to be playing with people’s emotions like an X Factor show does, and it’s not going to be cynical, either. But that’s why I think things live and die quite quickly – because it’s easier to hate something, isn’t it?"

Is there a way to change that? "Just be bold. I think people need to be bold with their decisions when commissioning stuff," he says.

"For Bake Off – the BBC were really bold with that. They were like 'we’ll put this on primetime, and it’s going to work' and it became the biggest show in the country. Those decisions really pay off sometimes. Just stick to your guns and trust yourself. But a lot of people don’t.

"In my first year on Radio 1, if people hadn’t have supported me, they would have just gone 'hmmm, he’s a bit young and a bit new and no one knows who he is...' Well of course not – because I’ve not been on! But you need some backers to go, 'we support you as well,' because we can go out and do the most amazing show ever, but you need support. It can’t just be us spinning the plates. You need a support network. And that’s from the BBC, hopefully."

With a mixture of sketches, performances and guest presenters, the six-part series will broadcast live from BBC Television Centre. Upcoming episodes will feature big names including Jason Derulo, Liam Payne, Liam Gallagher, Charlie Puth, London Grammar and Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl.


Sounds Like Friday Night begins Friday 27th October at 7:30pm on BBC1


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